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My Life! Teaching in a Korean University

Updated on June 2, 2015

Do you want a job or information about teaching English at a Korean University?

The blog: My Life! Teaching in a Korean University has all the information you need about teaching English in a South Korean University. Check it out and you will find:

1. Games and activities for helping your students in learning English.

2. Information and commentary on the Korean TEFL industry.

3. Job information, including how to get a University ESL job in South Korea.

4. Answers to reader questions, including tips and tricks to help you get that Uni job at a Korea University.

5. Sample ESL lesson plans.

6. ESL textbook recommendations.

Consider it your source for everything ESL Teaching.

How to get a University job in Korea

I've been teaching English at a Korean University for 10 years and people often ask me how they can get the same job. Once you meet the basic requirements for immigration, (a Native English speaker with a passport from one of the big 6 English countries and a BA degree), it comes down to the following things, some of which you have control over and some of which you don't:

1. Having a Masters degree in any subject. Of course, if you have a degree in Education, English or a TESOL related field your chances will be much better.

2. Being from North America. Koreans seem to prefer native speakers with this accent, as opposed to English, South African, Irish, or Australian.

3. Being a woman. Male ESL teachers dominate the scene in Korea, so universities will generally want to hire woman to balance things out.

4. Experience in Korea. Unis will want to see that you have at least a year working in Korea already. It doesn't matter if this is at a private institute or public school, but of course previous experience teaching adults will be better.

5. Residing in Korea. Most unis will require an in-person interview so make sure you are in Korea for the prime hiring seasons (May-June, Nov-Dec).

6. How handsome/beautiful you are. Appearance is everything in Korea, so dress for success at the interview. This means a suit/tie or equivalent. And of course, have a professional photo done for the one that you must include with your resume.

7. Your application package must be impressive just to get considered for an interview. Follow the directions on the job ad precisely. Every uni has vastly different application requirements. Be timely in your response. Each job ad will often get hundreds of responses within days of the job ad going up.

8. Work your connections in Korea. Many of the best uni jobs in Korea never get advertised but instead get filled through friends of current employees. My university advertises on every semester but will generally hire those that come with personal recommendations from one of my coworkers. Of course, don't treat people like a job vending machine!

Uni Jobs in Korea with only a BA

Academic Qualification vs Experience

"I have a B.A in English (Literature & Composition). I also have a Masters in Science: Curriculum,Instruction, & Assessment. There is a job in Korea that is seeking an ESL Teacher. Are my degrees sufficient or do I need more experience with ESL? What are the major difference from teaching mainstream English as opposed to teaching ESL? Any suggestions would be helpful."

To answer the first part. Your qualifications are more than sufficient. All you need is a BA in basket weaving to teach here. If you want to work at a uni, standards are a bit higher but you seem to have it covered with your masters degree.

Secondly, teaching ESL and teaching mainstream English are a world apart. If you have extremely high level students, and are teaching an "English writing" or "English literature" class then it might be somewhat comparable to what you'd be doing back home. Except these jobs are few and far between in Korea. At my uni, only 2 or 3 out of the 25 of us actually teach these high level classes. Anyway, the major difference is that you won't be teaching content, you'll be teaching very basic English vocab, grammar and conversation strategies. If you have lower-level students, then think, "How are you today" and "What color is this?" Mid-level students, then think, "What's your favorite movie?" or "What did you eat for breakfast today?"

My Favorite Review Game for ESL Classes

I usually have a class of review before the midterm and final exams. I choose a couple of games usually, but one of my favorite is "Jeopardy."

I make up categories from stuff that is on the test: "Vocab, grammar, movies, body" I think of questions that range from easy ($100) to difficult ($500). I put the students in groups of 3 or 4 and the they have to pick their category and question. They can pick whatever they want, but the key is that if they get it correct, they obviously get the points. If wrong, they get minus that number. I put in a few +/- 500/1000 to make it more interesting.

The Top University Jobs in South Korea


Make the "movie" unit interesting!

A classroom activity tip

It seems like every ESL book out there has a unit on movies. If you're looking for an idea to make that movie unit a bit more interesting, since your students are likely a bit weary of it, is to have them do a movie review. It's been a decent/fun time in all the classes that I've used it in.

How it works: I put them in groups of 3 or 4 usually. Then, they have to pick a movie that they've all seen. They write down the movie name and genre. They have to tell the movie story in 4 or 5 sentences. Finally, they say if they liked the movie or not and if they'd recommend it, in 2-3 sentences.

Then, they appoint one person from the group to read out their movie review to the class. I'll give one participation point to each member of the group who has the most interesting, detailed and easy to understand presentation.

Do you teach at a university in South Korea?

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Teaching Methodology: Competitive vs. Cooperative Environments

In the past few years, I've made my classrooms a kind of competitive place. I've talked before on this blog about my reward system and that most of the stuff I do in class has at least a few students who get a stamp, which equals 1% of their final grade. Most of the students seem to enjoy it, but there are some who comment in every class that they weren't so into it. The non-competitive, or weaker at English students I think. However, in Korea it's all about ranking and comparing against your peers, so my system plays right into the Korean mindset and culture.

But, I can't stop having this kind of nagging feeling in the bottom of my stomach that learning is all about cooperation and collaboration, not competition. And I wonder if it's time for a change. And, it would have been years earlier if my students genuinely wanted to learn English and had their own internal motivation/reward thing going. But, sadly, most do not. Hmmm....what to do. Reader ideas?

How To Get a University English Teaching Job in South Korea


A Practical Classroom Tip

On how to make your own dice

Playing a game where you need some dice, but you don't have enough sets for the whole class, or are just annoyed by the noise? You can buy some giant dice, or just make your own (kind of).

There are 2 things I do:

1. Make a grid pattern on a piece of paper. Put numbers (1-4, or 1-6, whatever!) on it in a random pattern. Then, to pick the number the students get their pencil, close their eyes and pick a square.

2. Get some of the new, small 10 won coins. Have the students throw them and see how they land. 2 heads is a 1, 1 head and 1 tail is a 2, and 2 tails is a 3. Makes sense?

Can you bring your family to Korea?

I have a Masters in Education & a B.A in English. I have several years of teaching experience under my belt. I am interested in getting a job at a university in Korea. I am married and I have two children. My wife does not teach. I know that I need a work visa to work in Korea. Well, what about my family? Can my wife and children stay with me at my expense? What visa documents must I apply for them?"

The quick answer is that yes, it is possible. I don't know all the details, but I do have friends here who are with their spouse and are not teachers. And there are plenty of foreign teachers around who have kids. There is a spousal visa of some sort that is very easy to attain.

The only drawback is that some places won't want to provide housing for 4 people. Most unis (understandably so) would rather provide a little one-room hovel than proper accommodation for an entire family. You might have to prepare yourself for just taking the housing allowance and finding your own place to stay. You''ll either have to pay monthly rent that is more than the housing allowance, or put down a substantial amount of "key money," which can be upwards of $10 000 US.

What do you think of My Life! Teaching in a Korean University?

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    • profile image

      MJ Haider 

      3 years ago

      Maybe Korea allows to apply for a teaching jobs with a Bachelors degree. You can check at

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 

      6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • Millionairemomma profile image


      6 years ago

      If you are happy and you enjoy it then that's what's important.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      I heard you could teach in Korea with a bachelor degree- not in universities though, maybe that's the difference?

    • ronpass lm profile image

      ronpass lm 

      7 years ago

      This would be a very useful lens for someone planning to teach in a Korean University. I wish I had a lens like this when I first started teaching Human Resource Management and Organizational Development at Griffith University. Well done!


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